Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

Friday Fiver

posted by dannycalogero

Wow, what a week it has been in the FPS team, we’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath! This week the news agenda has been much more serious – not like last week’s horsing around (sorry, couldn’t resist). Here are a couple of the things that have been keeping us busy and entertained over the past seven days

1. Rating GeorgeSo the UK lost its AAA credit rating last Friday, who cares? Well, not that many people apparently. After a brief wobble on Monday morning, the markets shrugged off the downgrade like a hangover from the night before. However, while the downgrade may not have had a major economic impact, its political impact remains to be seen. Rather than assessing the credit worthiness of the UK, it could turn out to be more of a rating on George.

2. Fear and loathing in the Eurozone – Speaking of politics, it has been a big week in Italy. As a result of the country’s inability to form a government, the Vix Index, or, to use my preferred name for it “the fear gauge” (say it in a Jack Bauer style voice), soared by 34%, its largest one-day gain for 18 months and its 10th largest spike since 1990. With this level of impact in the markets, you have to wonder how long it will be before the rest of Europe’s patience wears a bit thin with Italy.

3. Newcomer advantage - The days of long, peaceful reflection and idle doodling in the university library may be long gone, but every now and again you spot a little something which suggests you did indeed learn something from the dusty text books.

Today’s FT reports how Asian banks are turning retail banking business models on their head, skipping branch models and heading straight for new mobile banking services. Oliver Wyman are quoted in the article with research indicating China already accounts for more than 40% of online banking customers.

By skipping years of slow banking evolution, relatively new banks in Asia are establishing themselves as leaders in mobile banking services. In the late nineteenth century, German industries skipped past their more established UK rivals with new production techniques and more modern factories. Ah, Economic History 101…

4. Bonus points – The European Union announced details this week of its plan to cap bankers’ bonuses at twice their salary. Whilst David Cameron was opposed to this, the FT’s Lex Column clearly adopted the “don’t get mad, get round it” philosophy.

5. #Twésumé – But for any banker who is considering a career change, getting a Twésumé sorted will be perhaps be essential. This week The Evening Standard reported that Twitter is playing an increasing role in recruitment with employers ditching the traditional CV in favour of a candidate’s Twitter profile.  The Twésumé (as it has been so cleverly coined) appears two-fold:

  • The generous 140 character biography becomes your selling point. Writing “I love cats and beer” is unlikely to win you any fans (except of course other like-minded individuals)
  • Your Twitter feed must be regular, interesting and offer your opinions on topics rather than just pinching other people’s funnies

Unfortunately, in mine there is little room for anything else beyond Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

That’s all for this week folks. Thanks to Jonathan Henderson and Linzi Goldthorpe for their contributions. Have a great weekend!

The Best of the Budget

posted by Edward Jones

Rather than the usual Friday Fiver, this week we have decided to look at the Budget. Shock horror. Rather than add to the millions of words of analysis already published on that topic, we thought we’d make your lives easier and point you to the most memorable elements of this week’s main event.

Best Analysis

The IFS’ Budget 2012 briefing yesterday cut through the hyperbole to deliver a sober assessment of the red book. Their analysis of the implications of the 50p tax rate, suggested that contrary to the mooted 300,000 extra taxpayers roped into the lower 40p tax rate threshold, this figure could actually be closer to a million by 2014, adding fuel to the flames that were already raging, particularly among the usually supportive right wing media. 

A mention should also go to the Economist’s analysis. Highlighting Britain’s expertise in high-value services and the need to attract the world’s brightest, the Economist applauded Osbourne’s efforts to signal, “about as clearly as a man with no money to spare can, that Britain is open for business”.

Best gag

Sending the Government bench into raptures and consequently, Lindsay Hoyle, the Deputy Speaker, into apoplexy, Osbourne, when announcing tax breaks for the animation and video game industry in reference to this well know cartoon sketch said: “It is this Government’s determined policy that we keep Wallace and Gromit exactly where they are“. BOOM!

Best Headline

The Sun could’ve won this thrice with some absolute beauties including: “HE’S TAKING US FOR FUELS” and “GRAN THEFT OSBO.” The best ones are captured in this image courtesy of Conservative Home’s @TimMontgomerie

Best Post Budget Admission

‘We hid the papers.’ The Prime Minister’s aide unveils to the Times, Number 10’s response to the negative headlines on Thursday.

Best Punch

Miliband’s 50p tax gibe at the Government. With one question – ‘Who on the front bench would benefit personally from the 50p tax cut?’ Ed stunned the Cabinet and made his point effortlessly; we are no longer all in this together. Very clever.  

Best PR

The anti-war protesters – who employed a very, very long handle on their ‘stop the killing in Iraq and Afghanistan’ sign, which meant every interview Jon Sopel gave on College Green featured that banner in the background.

Best ‘_______ tax’ name

Whilst the half-baked pasty tax made a valiant effort, the Granny tax is set to be the classic. As a closing gambit, we quite like this spin on the Granny tax from the daily mash.

Rating Rhetoric

This post is by Marie Cairney, an Associate Director in our Financial and Professional Services team:

Only a few years ago rating agencies were being lambasted by investors, financial institutions and governments alike for their role in the unholy financial mess of 2007-2009. Prior to the crisis, trust in the Big Three agencies ratings on corporates, financial institutions and mortgage-related securities was high. This created a world where investment decisions were more or less made based on a couple of letters of the alphabet. Credit crunch finger-pointing blamed institutionalised ‘bad calls’ on the part of rating agencies as a major factor precipitating the crash. Blaming someone else for allowing you to do something that you knew was inherently stupid never looks good but a lack of transparency and competition in the ratings industry made the agencies a valuable commodity in the scapegoat market and let’s face it, they did get it wrong even if it was along with everybody else.

Ratings agencies assigned 'AAA' designations to exotic securities pre-2007, which led to a bubble of investor confidence in these products (Image: CNBC)

Fast forward five years and rating agencies are still here and still apparently creating mayhem; this time in the sovereign debt markets. Perhaps determined not to get it wrong again, they are all over Eurozone and US deficits and debt. Instead of building faux-investor confidence though, they are, according to beleaguered country governments, wrecking it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t one might think.  “It wasn’t me, it was them” seems to have been replaced by “It’s not fair” as the key criticism of rating agencies in the global financial playground, with successive Prime Ministers, Presidents, and Chancellors publicly livid with their new grades.

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Friday Fiver

posted by Edward Jones

For this week’s festive fill of Friday fun from the FPS team, sorry, I’ll stop with the Fs now. This week’s 5r below…

UK goes alone over Europe

Picture: BBC

It looks like the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has bowed to domestic pressure at the expense of international, or at least European influence. The history of Europe and the Conservative party looms large over his decision, but it does appear to represent an element of weakness in his leadership which wasn’t there before. The PM’s detractors are getting increasingly confident, backbench MPs were particularly vocal in PMQs this week, and one commentator even questioned what the odds might be on all party leaders being in present position by the time of the next election; at the moment it feels like an appealing bet. At least Cameron can take heart in Labour’s travails which it seems, according to the latest opinion polls, are getting worse.   

Christmas on the High Street

Every year it seems to get later. Logically you’d think that the busiest day on the high street would be mid-December, to allow time to wrap gifts and because people are keen to avoid the last minute dash.

Guess the road...

In reality, the busiest shopping periods over the past few years have been shifting towards the 22nd, 23rd or even 24th Dec as our client Visa showed last year, with 23 December being the peak. Christmas arouses the best of our consumerism, but even that has finally been dampened by high inflation and low or no wage growth. Why is this? Firstly, there’s the economic situation. Secondly, is the knock on effect of this dampening – retailers have to work extra hard to get us into shops. Discounting is the most effective way to do this but this presents a problem – discount too soon and your margins shrink. With big stock bills and rent to pay, its hard to afford that for long. So begins a game of poker between retailer and customer – the retailer always blinks first, it’s just a question of when.

It can’t be! Some good news…

In a rebuff to Dr Doom, the UK’s export market is apparently staging a come back. According to ONS statistics published today the value of UK’s exports have hit a record high and we’ve been importing less, meaning a narrowing trade deficit. Chemicals, medical products, and telecoms equipment performed particularly strongly in what will be seen as a boost to the Government, UKTI and the Department for Business who are banging the drum on this increasingly loudly. In last week’s Autumn statement the Government allocated £10 million to help mid-size British businesses export and £35 million to double, from 25,000 to 50,000, the number of SMEs that UKTI supports each year.  Analysts have cautiously welcomed the news, but the Government will be delighted.

There’s an app for that

You may have noticed, but the Fiver team are rather fond of the FT. On Tuesday everybody’s favourite pink paper launched an app for Android, which will replace the slightly clunky web browser version. We’ll await the Apple version with anticipation. If anyone has got round to downloading the new app, we’d be interested to hear what you think.

Osborne and Balls get in the Festive spirit

George Osborne and Ed Balls

Enough said.

FPS’ Friday Fiver

Happy Friday afternoon everyone. The clocks have gone back, it’s dark outside, and the eurozone still doesn’t look any closer to salvation. Light relief does at least come however with the prospect of a good fireworks show this weekend. Before you get out the sparklers though, take a look at the Financial and Professional Services Friday Fiver below, which this week takes in a wide range of topics on everything from Bob Diamond to celebrity marriages. We hope you enjoy!

WE’RE GROWING!!! SORT OF…..Finally, some good news this week as the UK economy grew 0.5% in the third quarter of 2011. Compared to recent efforts, that’s practically a meteoric rise, and was ahead of City expectations.

But here’s the bad news though – the effect may not last for two reasons. Firstly, some of the rebound in growth is being attributed to the disruption in Q2 owing to that dress and the ensuing two week holiday that most people took to get over it. And secondly, the forecast ahead looks dire – the latest purchasing manager indices, released by our client, CIPS, nosedived this week, suggesting order books are drying up. Still, let’s enjoy a bit of growth while we can shall we?

SING SONG TO AN ATHENIAN RHAPSODY…..We’re viewing Europe’s sovereign debt issues through a musical prism this week. The debt odyssey has taken a number of twists and turns, the most unexpected of which was Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s call for a referendum on the latest bailout package. The brinksmanship proved a step too far and was quickly called off.

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FPS’ Friday Fiver

Hello All! We seem to say this every week, but yet again it’s been a very busy and news heavy 7 days in the world of professional and financial services. This week’s Friday Fiver has a distinct air of gloom about it I’m afraid, though we do find room for a spot or two of humour as always. Thanks as ever to Ed, and Jonathan for their contributions.

CHART OF THE WEEK – GREECE: IN A NUTSHELL…..Stephen Hawking’s follow-up to his immensely successful 1988 book on the cosmos was labelled ‘The Universe in a Nutshell‘. As anyone with a passing interest in physics knows, it would take a forest of nutshells to even begin explaining the wonders of our universe. At times, the complex, ever-changing state of the Greek and wider eurozone crisis can feel pretty similar.

Help is at hand though, thanks to a handy chart unveiled by The Spectator this week. Sadly, upon reviewing it, only the most optimistic person would conclude that the eurozone is heading for anything other than very troubled waters.

The options (or not) for Greece (Chart: The Spectator)

THE DEVIL OF THE DETAIL – BANKING RESULTS…..Hot on the heels of Goldman Sach’s results this week came Morgan Stanley’s trading update. Unlike their rivals, MS were able to report a large profit for the quarter of $2.2bn.

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Same inflation, different growth – China vs the UK

It’s been an exceptionally busy morning of news today. Not withstanding Goldman Sach’s widely predicted poor Q3 results (which we discussed last week alongside many others), two key stories stand out today.

Firstly, China reported another slowdown in its growth. This is likely to send shivers down chief executives’ spines, as the global economy continues to cling onto China as its last great hope for growth. Then again, the word ’slowdown’ still masks the impressive statistic that China continues to grow at nearly 10% a year.  Inflation is coming down too, and a ’soft landing’ seems more likely than a hard bump.

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FPS’ Friday Fiver

Another week and one in which unsurprisingly, UK media attention focused primarily on the England riots (Peter Oborne’s piece today captured the wider issue rather well I believe). That’s not to say things haven’t been happening elsewhere though, particularly in the financial world.

With that in mind, here’s a round-up of the key stories from all aspects of this week. Thanks to Jonathan, Ross, new writer Claire Scott, and also our MD, Ben – his article is second up and attempts to add some perspective to events.

Zut alors…..Another week, another country but the issue, namely financial stability, remains the same. Early in the week one of the world’s best known fund managers, Bill Miller, published a response to S&P’s downgrade of US government debt. The articleA precipitate, wrong and dangerous decision ran in the FT and is well worth a read.

There was a lot of this going on this week, as markets behaved in wild fashion

By Wednesday however, the bottle had stopped spinning yet again and this time it was the turn of France and its credit worthiness to come under scrutiny. With speculation about the health of some of the country’s largest banks and the ability of the nation to underwrite possible further bailouts in southern Europe giving investors sweaty palms.

Sovereign debt has become synonymous with Western governments but in today’s FT, Jamil Anderlini provides an alternative perspective arguing that the disparity between China’s official and actual debt levels deserve further scrutiny.

Putting perspective on this week…..The riots captured the UK media’s attention, and were clearly unacceptable. They raise all sorts of questions about society, as well as being highly damaging for London and the UK’s image with the Olympics round the corner. At the same time though, there are bigger and potentially more threatening global economic issues at play at the moment. While you can understand the rolling news channels’ focus on the riots, with all due respect they are a catastrophe on a much smaller scale than what is going on in Europe and the financial markets.

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FPS’ Friday Fiver

We’re back, providing another round-up of some of the big stories from the world of financial services, the economy and Westminster this week. Contributors this week include Clare, Linzi, Jo and Ed, who bring us an overview of banking, pensions, retailers, and our new feature – Good Week/Bad Week.

Banking – fundamental flaws and failed customers…On Tuesday, Vince Cable held court at the Which? Banking Reform – An Agenda for Competition and Growth discussion at the Commonwealth Club, where he re-iterated his opinion that “banking is a structurally flawed industry that has fundamentally failed customers”.

Vince Cable - on the attack on banking once again (Image: Which.co.uk)

That the current system of banking is flawed is a no-brainer, but the harder question to answer is where exactly do the flaws lie? The conversation on Tuesday spanned the topics of increased competition, universal banking, ring-fencing, culture and behaviour along with new entrants into the banking market, but it seems that, nearly three years since the start of the global financial crisis, more questions continue to be posed than answered.

Is universal banking really the root of all banking evil? Do customers really feel their banks have failed them given so few of us have switched? With the array of initiatives, commissions, inquiries, and comite des sages taking place at the national, European and international levels, one has to hope that between them they will be able to identify and remedy the flaws that exist. However, there is the potential for all of these to come up with different flaws and different answers which complicate and confuse structures and customers alike!

Paying more for retirement…The spotlight returned to public sector pensions this week as figures leaked to The Daily Telegraph revealed exactly how much workers in the public sector will pay extra each month for their pensions.

Danny Alexander was asked how much more he personally would have to pay towards his pension this week (Image: Thesun.co.uk)

As expected, higher earners will take the brunt of the increases and the lowest paid workers, earning less than £15,000, will escape any increases at all.

Here are some of the figures from the proposals:

  • Those earning over £100,000 will pay £284 a month (£3,400 a year) more
  • Public sector workers in the £50,000 bracket will pay between £684 – £768  more
  • Those on a £35,000 salary face paying an extra £516 a year more

Despite the backlash, which was always going to happen, you can’t escape the welcome news that low paid public sector workers, some 750,000 people, will be exempt from any increase in contributions and those earning £21,000 will be out of pocket £108 a year, or just £9 a month. The fact remains that even with these increases, public sector pensions are still a valuable benefit.

We still aren’t buying much on the high street…Another worrying week for retailers as figures on Thursday showed that sales fell at their fastest pace for a year as consumers become increasingly reluctant to spend. This is brutal news for the already struggling retailers and may be a sign of further deterioration and shop closures to come.

Only one in three retailers claimed their sales volumes were up on a year ago, with food retailers being particularly hard hit – either we’ve all been hit by the rise in food costs and are watching the pennies like hawks or the nation is on a collective pre-holiday diet.

However, one retailer that isn’t afraid of the UK high street (or shall we say Oxford Street) is cut-price U.S. brand Forever 21, which opened its doors for us on Wednesday. Some critics state that we are not ready for ‘cheap, fast, American’ fashion’ but with the way things are going on the high street we may not have a choice.

George Soros - the latest financial veteran to retire

Good week/Bad week – George Soros & George Osborne…A tale of two George’s this week. For the first (the man who ‘broke the Bank of England’), the effective end of a remarkable 40 year investment career. While the manner of his retirement was a little sour, blaming US regulations, you can’t argue with his success over the years. He will likely be missed.

On the flip side, it was a less than stellar week for the younger George, who, as yet more vanilla growth figures rolled in, suddenly found himself the victim of attacks from several fronts. How he must be wishing for the summer break to roll around quickly.

FPS’ Friday Fiver

Hello All! It’s been another very heavy week of news, and equally heavy rain here in London – will summer ever raise its head again? Given the weather is playing havoc with any outdoor plans for the next few hours, we’ve put together another series of five key stories of the week from the world of financial and professional services. Thanks as ever to Ed, Mel and Jo for their contributions.

When is a default not a default?…Here are two rather intriguing and perhaps contradictory headlines for you from the same news website today: ‘Greece deal sparks bank-led European share rally‘, and ‘Fitch declares Greece default‘.

Greece - lives to fight another day

So which is it? The answer, rather confusingly, is both, depending on who you listen to. What isn’t in doubt is that eurozone countries have agreed another bailout package for Greece (though some have their doubts as to whether it’s big enough). This in turn, has sparked a market rally.

What also isn’t in doubt though, is that ratings agency Fitch have declared that because the deal involves private lenders ‘taking a haircut‘ on some of their debt, Greece has undergone a ‘restricted default’. At least in part. Confused? Quite possibly. What does it mean? That Greece continues to rage against the dieing of the light for a little longer, and that the other PIGS get some brief respite as well.

UPDATE – It seems we may have spoken too soon. According to Channel 4’s Economics Editor, Faisal Islam, Fitch is now not declaring Greece to be in restricted default.

Britain’s economy 2011 – what might we think in 2021?…What will be made of the Government’s economic policy in years to come? Will George Osborne’s approach be heralded as a masterstroke which got the nation back on its feet or criticised for paralysing the economy, engendering neither deficit reduction nor economic growth?

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